Jury to hear closing arguments in Scott County man's second murder trial

James Anthony Gray is on trial for two counts of murder.
James Anthony Gray is on trial for two counts of murder. Greg Kocher | Staff

GEORGETOWN — A jury will hear closing statements Thursday in the second trial of James Anthony Gray, the Scott County man charged in 2007 with killing his parents.

The defense rested Wednesday in the trial, which began Feb. 18. Gray's first trial ended last year after a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.

Gray, 43, is charged with two counts of murder and one count of tampering with evidence in the shooting deaths of his parents, James E. and Vivian Gray. The couple were found dead in their northern Scott County home.

If convicted, Gray will not face the death penalty because prosecutors took that off the table with the blessing of the Gray family. Gray testified in both trials that an interrogator with the Scott County Sheriff's Office coerced him into giving a confession. Gray has since maintained that he did not kill his parents.

Most of Wednesday's testimony came from Richard Ofshe, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. Ofshe was an expert witness in the trial of Jessie Misskelley, one of the "West Memphis Three" convicted in the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Ark. Misskelley confessed to the murders and implicated his co-defendants, although his confession diverged in significant details with the facts of the crime known by the police. Misskelley and the co-defendants were later released by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2011 after new DNA evidence was produced.

Ofshe testified Wednesday that he had no opinion on the veracity of Gray's confession. However, Ofshe said investigators used "psychologically coercive" interrogation techniques that are consistent with other interviews he has studied that resulted in false confessions.

For example, Ofshe said, an interrogator told Gray that his parents' blood was found in his vehicle; that gunshot residue had been found on Gray; that a security camera recorded Gray's vehicle in the area of his parents' house around the time that they were killed; and that blood had been found on Gray's work uniform. None of this was true, but the interrogator had cited these as "indisputable evidence" linking Gray to the deaths, Ofshe said.

Under cross-examination by Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Keith Eardley, Ofshe acknowledged he had not reviewed all the transcripts of interviews that the sheriff's office conducted with Gray, but only those in which alleged coercive techniques had been used.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday.

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